Crafting a winning marketing plan for financial services

As a seasoned marketer I've seen many marketing plans for financial services. Some strategies are just documents that get lost in internal filing systems and others facilitate exponential growth. If you'd prefer the latter, read on.

Anita T is an award-winning marketing consultant with 15+ years of experience.

As a seasoned marketer, I've witnessed the stark contrast between strategies that drive exponential growth and run-of-the-mill plans that fade into internal filing oblivion. Financial services require a strategic marketing plan that places brand positioning and customer experience at its center.

The Formula - Brand Positioning

Faceless, heartless and bureaucratic. Financial service providers inherit a stereotyped perception that they are bland, boring, and uncaring. Those that cut through differentiate themselves in a lucrative and competitive marketplace. Banks like ANZ work towards it and insurance companies like Lemonade are applauded for it, reaping such financial benefits that their brand ends up in university case studies, and, with customer satisfaction scores that competitors could only dream of.

The Barbara Bank campaign by ANZ Bank positioned the bank as more likable than Barbara.

If you haven't seen ANZ's Barbara Bank ad campaigns, you're missing out. Not only are they hilarious but they are a great example of a financial service differentiating its brand from dated stereotypes. The days of being an impersonable, uncaring financial service provider are numbered. Those who fulfil the stereotype are having their market position challenged, and those that challenge the stereotype are securing their market position.

The days of being an impersonable, uncaring financial service provider are numbered.

Lemonade, for example, is a US insurance company that shook up the sector with its refreshing and authentic market position designed to resonate with Millennials. Their sign-up process is faster than Uber Eats. It's based on live chat and designed to create a frictionless user experience younger generations demand, and bureaucratic insurance companies' envy. They also baked social good into their brand by donating a percentage of premiums to charity, helping the brand be perceived as more likable, and conscientious.

Lemonade insurance has grown fast leveraging fresh marketing
Lemonade turns buying insurance from a “necessary evil” into a “social good.”

How do you position your business? Well, firstly, there are several considerations to integrate into your brand positioning as a financial service provider. Brand studies have highlighted why people choose professional services brands and found prospective customers' brand preferences are driven by:

  1. Likability – You must resonate with your audience to be perceived as trustworthy. And, your firm must be easy to work with (aka: have a seamless customer experience)
  2. Results – you must apply that financial know-how in relatable scenarios. Results are critical - if you don’t have them you are simply perceived as untrustworthy and all-talk.
  3. Expertise – you are expected to demonstrate superior knowledge in your area of financial expertise. Gen Z and Millennials in particular have been found to be seeking financial literacy from their financial service provider.

Aim for your business to facilitate these points, your branding articulates them, and your marketing strategy amplify them.

Be Likeable

Every business is perceived as an entity. It has an identity or a way in which it is perceived as a collective. It's either a default perception or a carefully crafted branding strategy. Part of this is likeability. After all, nobody wants to do business with someone they don't like.

Look at your customer experience as a whole.

Look at your customer experience as a whole - is it likeable? Frustrating? Seamless? Your entire brand experience facilitates your brand persona. For example, you could portray a lux credit card, but customers have a budget experience when using your app. This would make your persona superficial, and new customer's expectations aren't met. Your churn rates go up, and your cost to acquire new customers go up with it.

Make reoccurring efforts to ask your current clientele for feedback and look for constructive changes you can make. Every business has faced complaints, and many can turn business around for the better, if we're responsive to it.

Facilitate customer feedback:

  • An annual Net Promoter Score survey (NPS). NPS is a widely used market research metric that asks respondents to rate the likelihood that they would recommend a company, product or service to a friend or colleague.
  • Quick feedback options at the end of a live chat
  • Email signatures
  • Automated SMS after meetings

You can approach happy clients for case studies that will help with the social proof needed to market your financial services.

You may be interested to know that companies that only have 5-star ratings can actually come off as suspicious, while slightly lower scores can be perceived as more trustworthy. Research suggests a slightly imperfect score around 4.5 stars is just right. Insurance company Lemonade showcase their slightly lower score to position the brand as more authentic.

Lemonade insurance boasts that they're not quite 5-star
Lemonade insurance boasts that they're not quite 5-star.

Tip: If you're a marketer that feels a bit stuck with a 'boring' brand, you can make your brand more 'likable' by including what your audience likes in your campaigns. For example, researchers have found both dogs and cats can increase an ad's persuasiveness. One company that may be leveraging this theory is Insurance company Budget Direct that uses a dog in its campaigns, illustrated in the billboard example below.

Budget direct uses a cute dog in their campaigns
Budget Direct uses a cute dog in its campaigns. Image source: Ooh Media.

Crafting a brand that's easy to like doesn't usually happen by chance, it's a strategic investment of resources to facilitate it.

Need help working out a brand persona? Take the brand archetype assessment.

Consistent messaging

Key messages are a part of branding. They are repeated over and over again, like taglines, so that people remember what you're about, (ideally in a positively defined light).

Hot tip: financial service providers are often inviting one person to invest in a product or service, so copy can benefit from a narrative written in first-person. If you are an authority, second person is often used.

An example of leveraging key messaging in branding is the National Australia Bank.

NAB has a tagline, if you are in Australia, you may have heard it: More Than Money. This is interesting considering NAB Bank was singled out in Australia's royal commission into banking, with a scathing assessment by the commissioner. In the commission, NAB was found to 'value dollars over its customers'. Ironically, NAB has been plugging the 'More Than Money' tagline since 2016. Despite the contrary evidence of the royal commission, NAB didn't shirk from their brand positioning, rather it seems they dialed it up, plastering their tagline in their ads across every possible touchpoint. NAB's team seems to value message consistency and may be proof that consistent messaging can outdo the most powerful negative reviews.

For a smaller business, key messages are equally as important. A bank doesn't say, 'We're a bank'. These mammoth financial institutions say, 'More than money', 'Can lives here', 'We live in your world'. As a marketing consultant to smaller businesses, I find small financial service businesses often use very functional key messaging that negates differentiation. For example: 'For all your business and taxation needs', 'Business and tax advisory', 'True financial advice.' It's not that you don't want your key messages to be functional, it's that these don't do you justice.

Great financial advice or services can change lives.

Money is a highly emotive topic and hitting the right emotional notes in your branding can be critical. How about, 'Take back control', 'Grow for tomorrow', or 'Live the life you always wanted.'

If you are a financial service business that needs help with your brand positioning and key messages, you may be interested in the branding packages for small business.

This brings me to...

Social Proof

Results matter in the financial services sector. Social proof, both online and offline will build your credibility. For this reason, building out your case studies and reviews becomes a critical component of a marketing plan for a financial service provider. Every review tells a trusted story - your client's story and how your business (ideally) is the hero that saves the day.

Tell a story

It's worth noting that results aren't always numbers and stars - they're stories. Most people in society want to make some sort of a change or difference in life, and your ability to facilitate that invitation through all your content is all a part of a marketing plan. This is an approach adopted by many insurance companies. An example of one that does this well is Thai Life Insurance. Their emotive campaign, included below, encourages people to consider others.

Google reviews like the one pictured below can also tell transformational stories that you can leverage in your marketing. These can also be a fantastic source of inspiration for your marketing messages - for example, the Google review pictured below explains, "after having another accountant stringing me along for over 6 months... [name] was extremely helpful, responsive and gave great advice." This firm could mirror this sentiment in their campaign content: "Feel misled? Need a helpful, responsive accountant with great advice? I'll sort out your paperwork mess and get your tax return done fast."

Google reviews for account
Google reviews can tell transformational stories.

Social proof helps you demonstrate expertise in your niche.

demonstrate Expertise in your niche

An important component of brand positioning for financial service providers is your expertise, and part of this, is your niche. The Women's Accountant pictured below has a clearly articulated niche. Create a brand experience that supports this consistently, with a team that delivers on the brand perception you are trying to facilitate.

Accountant niche ideas
The Women's Accountant has a pretty clear niche.

When the going gets tough, businesses can get (and sound) desperate. During the pandemic many businesses took on random clients just to keep the lights on. It can be a temptation during a recession too. However, if you take on random clientele, you can end up with a weak market profile. Ever heard the saying? Jack of all trades, but master of none? Don't be Jack. Having a clear niche and sticking to it can solidify your reputation better than risking spreading yourself too thin all for the sake of a few dollars.

Likeability. Ease. Expertise.

A marketing strategy for financial service providers needs to facilitate and amplify likeability, ease and expertise. Your brand positioning and complete customer experience is the formula that will be critical to growing your business in the competitive arena of financial services.

Need a hand? I'm a digital marketing consultant based in Melbourne, feel free to reach out or meet me on LinkedIn.


Don’t just grow—grow smarter.

Let's Grow Your Business
Arrow up